While the clock is ticking down for suggestions for solutions to Quinte Health Care’s impending multi-million dollar debt, communication continues, but its effectiveness remains unknown.
PEC Mayor Peter Mertens says consultation with the family health team is key thing for the County as “involving our local doctors will lead to a better recognition of our needs that will further lead to solutions that hopefully meet all of our needs.”
The physician members of the Prince Edward Family Health Team (PEFHT) have provided QHC with several alternative proposals but have not received analysis or substantive response to any of them. PEFHT represents 23 physicians in the County.
“QHC can continue to incorporate suggestions up until February 19 on how the current proposals should be changed, so that updated proposals can go to the February 26 QHC board meeting,” said Susan Rowe, director of communications, in a press release. “Once the board of directors has endorsed the proposals, QHC will formally engage its union partners with the proposed plans through the staff planning process.”
Rowe said QHC has heard overwhelming pride from the community and concerns about changes.
“One common misperception is that these proposals will mean more people will need to travel for their health care services. For almost all of the proposed solutions, current health care services will remain in the local communities, but may not be delivered in a hospital setting anymore. This is in line with the Ministry’s Action Plan for Health Care.”
The perception of losing key services at Picton hospital, is reality, says Dr. Elizabeth Christie, president of the PECFHT. “To say that patients will not have to leave the community for services is simply untrue,” she said, pointing to the three most drastic cuts for Picton – maternity, endoscopy and nine of 21 beds.
“Abandoning obstetrical care in Picton will not only mean expectant moms will have to go to Belleville for their deliveries, but they will also have to go the Belleville for all of their prenatal care for the last three months of pregnancy. There were more than 200 visits to Picton hospital by pregnant women last year for pregnancy related matters, and all of these people will also have to go to Belleville,” she said. “The proposal to cancel the endoscopy program at Prince Edward Memorial Hospital by definition means that patients will have to travel to Belleville for all endoscopy procedures.”
Christie says the bed cuts at Picton are untenable and that QHC has no means of “ensuring” services are available in the community.
“QHC is a hospital; community services are in the community. The hospital is full to overflowing much of the time. And this despite a group of physicians who work collaboratively with one another as well as many community based organizations such as the Community Care Access Centre in effort to keep people out of hospital.
“As our population ages, we know we are going to need more, not fewer, beds, so cutting the beds – which really means laying off the nurses – now makes no sense. Where they could look inside for savings, to positions that provide no actual patient care, they are choosing to cut all important clinical nursing positions, leaving valued members of our community out of work, and patients without adequate care.”
As the County’s senior population grows (Mayor Mertens confirms we are the second highest aged community in Ontario) the PEFHT continues to work on innovative projects including the ministry’s new Health Links program being designed to bring primary care providers together with other health organizations including hospitals, CCAC, mental health programs and hospice programs.
“Every one of the initiatives currently on the table are the expansion or copying of programs or proposals currently operated or planned by the Prince Edward Family Health Team,” said Christie. “And that demonstrates the ingenuity in this community, and enthusiasm to expand beyond the bridges to help other communities.”
Christie says the PEFHT has been a leader in community-based services that has already had a real impact on emergency room visits and hospital admissions.
“QHC is making misguided choices,” said Christie. “To think that there will be any real community based change consistently in place within a year from now is naive. It takes time for programs to be tested and implemented, and it takes a long time to get more nursing home beds.”
In its press release Thursday, QHC states it has implemented an in-depth process to gather input and other creative ideas and are still finalizing proposed solutions and working with physicians and staff to refine proposals.
“While we have heard from many people that would like hospital-based services to remain as they are today, the entire health care system in Ontario is undergoing a transformational change, more profound than most of us have experienced in our long careers,” said Dr. Dick Zoutman, QHC Belleville Chief of Staff. “These changes are necessary to maintain the quality of care we all expect the health care system to deliver over the long term.”
And while QHC expects to continue to receive feedback, “We we do need to continue to work towards the start of our fiscal year on April 1, when our further funding reductions come into effect,” said Rowe.
QHC announced in fall 2012 that the anticipated financial gap between expected revenues and expenses could be as high as $10 million for its fiscal year that starts April 1, and could climb by an additional $5 million in future years.
Rowe explains this is driven primarily by a change to the hospital funding formula which will lead to substantial decreases in QHC’s funding for the foreseeable future. QHC’s board expects the hospital to operate within a balanced budget and the Local Health Integration Network is required by law to ensure that all hospitals balance.
Meanwhile, Mayor Mertens is demonstrating council’s support for Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital by publishing requests to encourage the public to share concerns about how Quinte Health Care’s proposed changes will affect the delivery of health care services in the County.
“While we recognize the need to adapt and ensure fiscal responsibility, we are discouraged at the way QHC is proposing to resolve their funding challenges,” said Mertens, noting their proposal does not recognize the impact service changes will have on the patients themselves.
“Council stands behind PECMH and the community it serves. A reduction in hospital services would negatively impact not only the local economy and health care services, but the overall quality of life of County residents.”
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I am writing to let you know I am concerned about proposed changes to Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital because of the severe and detrimental effects they will have on our community. I am requesting that adequate time be provided to conduct the fulsome consultation with our local Family Health Team, the medical community and the general public. Opportunities for innovative savings are being overlooked at Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital. More consultation is necessary to ensure that essential services are not being eliminated before adequate supports are in place, creating risk for our community and costs for system.
Mary Clare Egberts—President and CEO, QHC
265 Dundas Street East, Belleville, ON K8N 5A9
T: 613.969.7400 x 2400, F: 613.969.0486
Brian Smith, Chair—Board of Governors, QHC
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Todd Smith, MPP— Hastings-Prince Edward
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